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In dominance-structured animal societies, variation in individual fitness is often related to social status. Like many passerine birds, Black-capped Chickadees (Poecile atricapillus) have a short average adult life-expectancy (Ø2 years); however, the maximum recorded life span is >5× as long. Enhanced annual survival could contribute to greater lifetime reproductive success for male Black-capped Chickadees with high social rank. We used multistate capture–mark–recapture models to estimate annual survival of male Black-capped Chickadees in Ontario using resighting and recapture data collected from 1997 to 2002. Our goal was to evaluate support for an influence of rank on annual survival and estimate its effect size for a food-supplemented study site. We also statistically modeled the probability of between-year rank transitions. Model selection based on Akaike’s information criterion provided support for an effect of rank on survival. However, multimodel inference revealed that the size of the effect was rather small. Over the six study years, model-averaged estimates of the survival benefit of high versus low rank ranged from 5.0 to 7.3%. As expected, survival was strongly year-dependent, with model-averaged estimates of annual survival probability varying between 0.36 and 0.73. Age was an important predictor of the probability of rank transitions. Low-ranked second-year birds were less likely than older low-ranked birds to advance to high rank between years; likewise, high-ranked after-second-year birds were less likely to drop in rank. Other studies have found larger effects of rank on survival than we observed here. Future research should consider how interactions between social and environmental factors influence annual survival.


This article was originally published in The Auk, 125(3): 629-636. © 2008 American Ornithologists’ Union. Reproduced with permission